Thursday, November 30, 2017

Chocolate Party - R2BC

DD doing something with a syringe filled
with white chocolate. 
I'm borrowing Mich's idea and writing a Reason 2B Cheerful for each day of the past week. And of course I'm joining the linky on Mummy from the Heart.

Friday: I went to my cousin's house near Tel Aviv for breakfast. Well this wasn't such a reason to be cheerful as she  was sitting shiva, but it was lovely to see her as we hardly ever get together.

Saturday: We had a pyjama day and did absolutely nothing except eat, sleep, read, and play games all day.

Sunday: I don't remember last Sunday. If it were a terrible, no good, very bad day I'd have remembered it. But obviously it was ok so that's a reason.

Monday: Ditto.

Tuesday: Ditto.

Wednesday: We went to a birthday party after school. It was a fabulous chocolatefest with the kids doing all sorts of creative things with melted chocolate. And then they ate it all. DD came home and asked for a cut up apple and orange for supper.

Thursday (today): I went out for lunch with a friend. finally managed to pick up my new cheque books from the bank, and made it home in time for DD coming home from school. Just.

OK, that didn't work so well for me. However, it's the last day of the month and I need about 200 more views in order to reach my minimum number of page views for November. Anything less is unacceptable. (This is called the tail wagging the dog but sometimes it's like that. It just is.)

Next week is a big week for us as we have a birthday in the house and it's not mine. I expect I'll find plenty of reasons to be cheerful around the birthday theme and that'll make up for this week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

DD is a Young Guard

Me aged 18, on a kibbutz with my Youth Movement
DD started going to one of the local Youth Movements last week. I've written about this before but Youth Movements here (and in the Jewish world) are more than just clubs. It's a whole ideology and a community that you grow up with. They used to be closely linked to political parties but not so much anymore. I would say that my Youth Movement in London was the reason I emigrated to Israel. It can be a powerful force in your growing up experience. Historically it's part of the country's Socialist origins. All the public schools have half day on Tuesdays so that they can go to Youth Movements in the afternoon. It reflects the European background of the original ruling classes. Think of the power of Hitler Youth, it's a similar concept but obviously without the racism and genocide.

The representatives from the various groups came to the school to recruit. We didn't get any of the religious groups as it's not a religious school. They know their potential clients. I didn't push any of it even though some of her friends started going to scouts and Noam (The Youth Movement of the Traditional Jewish Community) last year. My thoughts were:

a. She needs to choose a group that meets locally as we don't have a car.
b. She'll go where a group of her friends go - it's all about the social at this age.
c. I didn't start going to my Youth Movement of choice until well into my teens and I got the full experience, life-changing influences, and life-long friends out of it.
d. It ultimately won't be my choice but hers.
e. Lots of kids I know started going to a group but dropped out after a few months. They don't have the pull that they once did and many many more kids don't go to a Youth Movement nowadays. So even if she starts a group it doesn't mean she'll stay with it.

I would have chosen Noam for her. I would say that Noam probably reflect our family situation and outlook the best. But I left it too late and she told me she wanted to go to Hashomer Hatzair (The Young Guard). I had no recourse. The leaders come to collect a group of them from school (this year, next year they can walk themselves if they're still interested), the local clubhouse is very near, her friends were going.

But Hashomer Hatzair!!!! It's extremely left-wing and anti-religion! It's so not me. It's so not us. But so far they've made some posters and played board games. I collected DD and her friend the other day and as we walked home I could hear them behind me chanting: "Young Guards! Be strong!" and then answering with; "Strong and Brave!"

I was remembering my own Youth Movement chants: "Who are we?"   "Bnei Akiva!" (The Children of Rabbi Akiva)  "What is our cry?"  "The Bible and Work!"  "What is our motto?"  "The Land of Israel! The People of Israel! And the Bible of Israel!"

Over the past 35 years Bnei Akiva has got more religious and right wing whereas I have got less so on both accounts. I loved my time in BA but it wouldn't be appropriate for us now. When my nephew offered DD his Bnei Akiva shirt which he thought she'd love to have, I had a strong reaction against it. DD had no idea what it meant but I knew that  wearing it would be announcing our religious and political stance - wrong ones for us on both accounts. When DD announced that she wanted to go to Hashomer Hatzair, I didn't have this strong reaction. So maybe it's not such a bad fit after all.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

R2BC - The Digital Edition

No real reason to get up on a weekend morning....
My New Phone
I bought a new mobile phone. My old one was a cheap something from China that you had to shout down in order to be heard. And when I switched providers, it wouldn't receive the internet or allow Whatsapp or any other apps outside of my home wifi.

I was already fed up with it but then I had to go out of town on Friday, on the buses, to a place I'd never been before. I wanted to be able to check the bus routes and schedules, I wanted to see where I was on the map, I needed to be able to use my Gett Taxi app if necessary, I needed to be able to Whatsapp  the person I was going to and also the parents of the friend DD was going to after school. It was time for a new phone.

I went to an established chain of computer shops. I told them I wanted Samsung or LG and not some obscure make of phone that no one is familiar with. I didn't want to pay 2,000 shekels but, otoh, I wanted something that would last five years. I couldn't afford a new phone but they put it on  12 payments and it was Black Friday week, so I'm paying about 20GBP a month. (For one second I considered buying one for DD as well but then I remembered the tablet that was dropped on the floor after only six weeks and I came to my senses.)

I'm like a kid with a new toy. The various apps directed me to my cousin's door, showing my progress, exact location, and expected times of arrival for each stage of the journey. I know this isn't new, but it was new to me and I loved it.

DD's New Phone
DD finishes school on Friday at 11.45. She was then going to her youth club with the group of kids from school, and then going home with a friend. I had no idea what time I'd be home so I decided to 'lend' her the spare phone my mother bought for when she visits. It's not a smart phone but one of those revamped Nokia phones with telephone, clock, calendar, and camera.

DD was thrilled. She's been begging for a phone for ages. She was a bit disappointed that she wouldn't get Whatsapp on it as her friends are in groups, but she found a game (probably Space Invaders or Pac Man, LOL) so that made up for it somewhat.

I put in my phone number, her friend's mother's number and our very close friend (the friend DD sleeps over with when I go out). I told her that if she's ever in a situation where she can't get hold of me, she should call Sarit and she'll come and get you. I told her not to waste phone calls, it's a pay as you go and  if  you use up the time you won't be able to call anyone. "It's just for emergencies." I warned.

DD didn't miss a trick. "If it's for emergencies I ought to have it with me every day, don't you think?" She's got a point. When I called her on my way home, she excitedly told me that she'd found loads of things to do on the phone and that she has collected some phone numbers from her classmates. Oy vey.

By the end of the day I'd bought her a cover for it and change the contact name on my phone from 'Spare Phone' to 'DD'. Some things are inevitable.

And as a consequence of her having the phone, I felt comfortable letting her walk home from her friend's house on her own. She goes to and from school on her own already but we live opposite the school. This was from a few roads away with a few roads to cross. It was really fine. I've been watching her cross the road to school, from my balcony, and she's got it in terms of being sensible, cautious and defensive.

So after I'd already told DD that she can phone Sarit in an emergency. I texted Sarit and said I hoped that was ok. I also said I'd do the same for her son, i.e. go and get him in a taxi if he needed me. I won't print her reply but we exchanged lots of hearts and kisses and expressions of friendship and family. It left me feeling all warm and fuzzy and thankful to have such a special friend close by.

The Icing on the Cake
As a by-product of all this shifting around of phones, DD got my old smart phone without the sim card to use as a tablet for playing some games and watching You Tube as it still works on the home wifi. She's not had access to a screen, other than dvds on the tv, since she broke her new tablet after six weeks and then managed to break my spare laptop.

The Laptop Dilemma Solved
I know how she broke my spare laptop. She played games on it and was too hard on the keyboard. I'm getting it fixed but I'm reluctant to let DD anywhere near it. Otoh, she needs access to a computer. I thought of buying a desk top which would be sturdier but we live in a small apartment and I really don't want to give up the space for a desktop.

My cousin's son suggested I attach an external keyboard to a laptop for DD to bash away at. Such a simple solution I'm embarrassed not to have thought of it myself.

I have joined the other cheerful bloggers on the linky over at Mich's Mummy from the Heart.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Just Don't Sleep Through Christmas - R2BC

Almost the end of a long Friday and here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. I'm joining the other cheerful bloggers on the linky over at Mummy from the Heart, as usual. 

DD in one of her art classes. Still in shorts and t-shirt you'll notice. 
We are constantly hearing about how most of us are sleep deprived. And most of us are feeling it too. 

I read an article about how not enough sleep 'turns off' certain cancer fighting hormones (or somethings) in the body. The researcher who wrote the paper said he gets panicky of he doesn't have his 8 hours a night sleep. He said that 8 hours a night is as essential for good health as a healthy diet and avoiding known toxins like asbestos. 

Well I'm easily persuaded and as it doesn't involve going to the gym or breaking a sweat, I tried it. For a month now I've been resisting the lure of the computer screen and making sure I'm in bed by 10 (10.30 at the latest) every night. I don't know if I'm fighting potential cancer cells successfully, but the knock-on effects are amazing. I'm not tired in the mornings. It's not a struggle to get out of bed. I'm happier to go to work, I function better at work, and I don't eat as much as I did in the longer evenings.

None of this is rocket science of course but it's a revelation to me. It took me a good few days to make myself go to bed so early (for me) when I wasn't even tired, but once it became a habit, I'm loving it. 

The Festive Season
It's begun. And I allow it to begin now. I watched a vlog recently where they were already decorating their Christmas tree in the first week of November. One of the comments said that their family had given many sons to the First and Second World Wars and they had suffered more than their share of losses. In respect for their family members who fell and for all the fallen soldiers, they do not start decorating for Christmas until after 11/11. I like this idea. I like it because it shows respect and because it stops Christmas blurring borders with the summer holidays. 

Personally I would like to ban Christmas until December 1st. Let's give full attention to Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes, and Thanksgiving without them being overshadowed by creeping Christmas. But on Sunday it's the 1st of Kislev, which is the Hebrew month in which Hanuka falls. So even by my own rules, the Festive Season must be allowed to begin. 

We have already been invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner next Thursday. I suggested that the traditional gift to bring would be some blankets infested with smallpox. This didn't go down well. So we shall arrive with wine and redeem ourselves by getting into the spirit of it all. (Although I've already been warned that there is a lot of dessert in the main course.)

The Weather
It's holding out. Middle of November and I'm still in sandals. It was 25 degrees C, today in Jerusalem. Warm and balmy. Just right. Of course, 10 years ago we would have been panicking that we've had hardly any rain this season, but now that we have desalination plants no one seems to worry about the water situation anymore. We should though because the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are in danger of drying up completely and where is beauty if not in natural bodies of water? But for now it's nice to be warm and not have to turn the heating on. I have a personal challenge to not use the heating until December 1st. (Not even on Kislev 1st!). 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

I See Music In Our Future - R2BC

It's that time of the week again and though I've been sick for some of it, there are still reasons 2B cheerful. However, because of the sicky, it's a bit of a recap and an update on things already reported. I've joined the linky over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart, where us cheerful bloggers share the cheer. 

DD had her third clarinet lesson, but the first lesson with the full instrument. Ronit had given her ligature (you see we learned the proper name for it) to her teacher and it worked. She came home all excited and exclaiming, "I can play my clarinet! I can play my clarinet!" What she meant was that she could get a sound out of it. Which is 100% improvement on last week when she couldn't get a sound out of it. So her homework is to practice. I've banished practice sessions to her bedroom with the door shut until she can play a tune. That sounds harsher than it is because I'm actually only thinking of the neighbours. DD's bedroom is the only room in the house that only shares a party wall (including ceilings and floors) with one other neighbour instead of three.

After her lesson, and while she was still excited about it, I put on my CD of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. The adagio (the middle bit) is possibly my favourite piece of music of all time. DD complained all the way through that it was boring and she wanted to watch Mama Mia.

A clarinet playing friend called after reading my blog post and offered to give DD help with her technique. He also mentioned that his son had taken clarinet to great levels, eventually necessitating them paying 13,000nis (almost 3,000GBP) for a good clarinet. Mama Mia suddenly sounded like a good idea.

Sick Days
I was sick on Sunday and Monday and didn't go to school. I went to college on Tuesday (which is entirely different from teaching in primary school - far less energy involved) so I thought I'd better go back to school on Wednesday. However, I had to leave before the last lesson. I came straight home and went to bed. DD had to fend for herself all evening. She foraged about in the fridge and in the larder for food. Evidence the next morning suggested that she ate crisps, biscuits, and ice-cream for supper. I vaguely remember her coming in to ask me a few times and I just said, "I don't mind, you can have what you like, just no cooking."

Good bye old friend. I'm eating the fibre from now on.
The cheerful connection here is that DD was so good and amused herself  until bedtime. She brought me glasses of cool water when I needed them and the phone when it rang. Eventually I saw all the lights going out and a little voice said, "I'm going to bed now. Shall I turn the light out right away or can I do some sudokus in bed?"

She took the magnets only. She didn't want the books. 
I put some items up for sale on our local facebook selling group. I sold the juicer. Research has convinced me that eating the whole fruit or vegetable is better. More fibre and less fructose. I loved the juices. My friend and I used to call them the nectar of the gods. But you have to follow your head in these things.

I also sold a big bag of magnetic letters, numbers and shapes. It all goes to keep some cash in my purse and will pay for my next bus ticket. Every little helps. And that's two fewer clutter items in our home.

DD and I both enjoyed playing the recorder last weekend. I'm looking forward to a future of recorder duets.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Why I Need To Get Flu Shots

Seriously, you think I had the energy to find relevant photos? 
I took two sick days from school this week - Sunday and Monday. I had a cold and a cough, a sinus headache, a sore throat and no voice. The usual November and winter afflictions. I'm almost better today and came to college (on Tuesdays I teach in college).

It's a big hassle to take a sick day from school. Because I'm a subject teacher and not a class teacher, I had to notify (by text or whatsapp) every class teacher of groups I teach on that day (or on those days) that I wouldn't be there. Some of my groups are from 4 different classes!

I had to notify the break-duty co-ordinator and try to do a swap with someone. There were no swappers available so she did it for me and I owe her two breaks in the future.

I had to notify the substitute co-ordinator, even though I knew she'd just cancel classes where I take groups out of other lessons and tell my groups to stay in with the other English teachers if their class also had English. So then I had to try to think of what work they could do on their own without disturbing the rest of the class, and text that to the English staff. (The Head of English said she was teaching 'telling the time' so one of my groups could learn it with her group. This was gratefully accepted as all my textbooks are at school so I had no idea what to give them.)

I had to organize a sick-note from my doctor but felt too unwell to actually go in and get it. I will get it within the next two weeks but she won't see me sick so what's it worth really?

I sat with the staff contact list and my phone, and texted/whatsapped for a good half an hour to fulfill all my obligations. I was sick but not disfunctional. I wondered if I would have gone into work if I worked in a quiet office? Possibly. But I couldn't have controlled classes of lively children.

I once had real flu, about 20 years ago. The type where you basically die for a week and it takes about three months for the virus to totally leave your body. I remember that I (stupidly?) went back to school after only one week. Had I stayed at home another week to really recover I might have avoided the three months of semi-sickness. Seriously, for three months I went to work, came home and went back to bed.

Back then you just phoned the school office and your head of department and they dealt with everything. If I got real flu now there's no way I'd be able to do all that notifying and organising - I couldn't even stand up.

So I'll be going for my flu shots when I pick up my sick note. And for DD too. Because I can only deal with low grade sickness in my job.

Do other teachers have this, or is it just my school?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dusting Off The Descant

With all the shenanigans over DD's clarinet and me requesting a recorder group instead, I got all nostalgic about my recorder. A few years ago, before DD was born, I bought myself a new descant recorder and got out my old recorder books from school (circa 1973). I started to play again but, as with a lot of things, I didn't get very far. DD now has that recorder for school.

While I was trying to persuade DD that the recorder is just as good as the clarinet (and failed), we watched You Tube videos of recorder ensembles and they are beautiful. So when we went to buy the reeds for the clarinet, I bought myself a new recorder. It cost less than the reeds for the clarinet despite being a Yamaha.

At the weekend I got out my old books - the black one (book 1) and the blue one (book 2), and started to play. I began at the beginning, going over the notes - B, A, G, upper C, upper D, F#, E and lower D. It went surprisingly fast. My fingers seemed to remember of their own accord. I got to page 30 in less than an hour, and playing fluently, reading the music an' all.

Something was missing though. There were tunes I remembered that just weren't there. So went back to the box and found the recorder book from my primary school, the red one. And there it was, nestled somewhere between Go and Tell Aunt Nancy and London's Burning - Tallis. I loved playing that when I was 10. It felt like a proper piece of music rather than a folk song, which of course it is.

Then DD came in and said she wanted a go. So she took the black book and worked her way through the notes B, A and G. (Don't ask me what they have been doing in school for a year.) She got all excited about it. Later in the day she went back to practise it again.

I proclaimed Saturday morning to be music practice morning. I am determined to get to the end of the blue book this time. Did you notice what good condition it's in compared to the black book? There's a reason for that.

Minimalism shminimalism, there is also a reason why despite being an Olympic level declutterer, there are some things I've held on to for 45 years and not sorry.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I Went To Hell And Back (The Clarinet Saga) - R2BC

Can you spot the missing piece? It's the clip that holds the reed. Who knew? 
After paying not a small amount of money for DD's extra art lessons, which I didn't begrudge at all, we got a letter from the school saying that each child had to choose one of the following instruments: clarinet, saxophone, flute, trombone and trumpet. DD chose the trumpet. I vetoed that so she chose clarinet.

Then we got a letter that we had to go and rent the instrument from the Jerusalem Music Centre at a cost of 300nis, we had to leave a deposit of 1,000nis (a cheque that hopefully won't be cashed), and we had to buy the reeds for the clarinet.

I was annoyed. I wrote an email to the Headmistress and the class teacher in which I wrote:

Dear .........
I want to ask you about the musical instrument lessons and make a suggestion.

DD has been playing the recorder at school for a year now and though she enjoys playing she didn't get very far with it. Therefore, I'm not so happy about paying 300nis to hire a clarinet and leave a 1000nis cheque as deposit when music is obviously not her passion (unlike art, which she loves and has some talent for). 

However, I do think that music is important and that it's a wonderful opportunity to get lessons at school at this age. As they already have recorders, could the school offer the option of a recorder group as one of the groups for the musical instrument lessons? The recorder isn't just an instrument for kids. It's a proper instrument and recorder ensembles can be beautiful.

I would love for DD to be competent in playing a musical instrument and to be able to read music, but I don't see the point of starting a new one when the instrument we have is lovely and would fulfill all the music requirements without the added cost and pressure.

I know there is at least one other member of the class who would also be interested in this option.

The answer was no. They said very nicely that they'd discussed it with the music co-ordinator and it's too late to change things now. Perhaps for next year. (Hands up anyone who believes the clarinet teacher could also teach recorder.) I was so tempted to reply, "That's great thanks, so we'll wait for the recorder group next year." But DD is not quite 9 and she doesn't want to be different from everyone else so I agreed to get the clarinet.

I reminded myself that the music programme is one of the reasons I chose this school. I had to admit that 300nis (about 65 GBP) is a very good price for what will be about 30 lessons, hopefully. And DD was happy. My mother, via skype, also reminded me that when we were kids they bought recorders for each of us, two violins, a melodica, a guitar, and a flute, and none of us plays anything today. I admitted that I still had a keyboard that I bought 25 years ago in order to learn the piano, and I don't use it at all now. (DD chipped in here, "yes you do use it. You put all the clean laundry on it when you can't be bothered to fold it up and put it away." Thanks for that Darling.)

That night I couldn't fall asleep for worrying about the 1,000 shekels that they'd take if we lost or damaged the clarinet.

The JMC is in Hell's Valley. I'm not kidding. It's in the Valley of Gehenna (also called Hinnom), if you know your Bible:

"In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was initially where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire. Thereafter it was deemed to be cursed (Jer. 7:3119:2-6).
In Rabbinic literature and Christian and Islamic scripture, Gehenna is a destination of the wicked..... the King James Version of the Bible usually translates with the Anglo-Saxon word Hell." Wikipedia
No buses go there. Of course not, it's cursed! So we took a taxi down, down, down towards the depths of the rocky cliff below the Old City of Jerusalem. We hired our clarinet and because God's mercy is not abandoned at the gates of Hell, we met the mother of one of DD's classmates there. She not only gave us a ride back unto the land of the living, but she also took us straight to the music shop where we shared a packet of reeds. (DD has only lost one of her reeds so far. :~) )

Lo and behold, the first clarinet lesson cameth! DD came home and told me there is a piece missing from her instrument and you can't play it without this piece. I closed my eyes and saw my 1,000nis being taken as we are accused of losing the missing piece. At the very least it would be two more taxi rides to sort it out.

I called the music teacher. He told me to call Ronit. I asked for her number. I got nothing. I sent a slightly hysterical text message to the class teacher saying I need to speak to Ronit. Who is she? Where is she? Can I please have something to go on here - a surname, a number, an email? Anything? I got a number.

Meanwhile another mother gave me the number of Yaffa who also goes to the JMC and might be able to get the missing part for me. I spoke to Ronit and she told me to speak to Chikol who is in charge of the instruments at the JMC, and she might be able to bring me the missing piece if he has one spare. I spoke to Chikol and he said he would give the missing piece to Yaffa. I texted Yaffa. She replied that she is the flute teacher not the clarinet teacher. By this time I wasn't sure who'd I'd spoken to. I contacted Ronit again and she said she would get the missing piece from Chikol today.

So hopefully that is the end of the clarinet saga. This is my Reasons 2B Cheerful post this week because we do not have to go back to Hell and sort it out. Otoh, we've not got it yet and we've not tried it to make sure it's the correct piece that was missing. Ho hum, for now I'm cheerful so I've joined the R2BC linky on Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.